Madonna Badger, the Connecticut woman who lost her parents and three young daughters in a house fire on Christmas Day 2011, is engaged to a longtime friend who helped her pick up the pieces after the tragedy.
Badger, 49, detailed her recovery over the past two years and her new relationship in a recent article for Vogue
titled, "The Long Road Back: How to Keep Going After the Unimaginable Happens."
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"It's never going to be easy," Badger writes. "The pain is just so huge that sometimes it feels like a prison cell. But trying really hard to not feel sorry for myself makes me feel good."
Badger's 9-year-old daughter Lily, 7-year-old twin daughters Grace and Sarah, and her parents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, all perished in the Dec. 25, 2011 fire that tore through Badger's Stamford, Conn., home. Badger and her then-boyfriend, Michael Borcina, survived the blaze.
"I've never felt so desperate," Badger writes, describing waking up in the hospital the day after she lost her family. "Whenever I wasn't knocked out on sedatives, I was screaming at the top of my lungs: 'Where are my children?! Where are my parents?!'"
Badger, once a successful businesswoman who ran her own ad agency in New York City, fell apart in the months following the fire. She spent time in two different psychiatric hospitals and regularly contemplated suicide.
On the first anniversary of the fire, Badger traveled to Thailand and volunteered in an orphanage. She brought with her all of her daughters' old toys.
"I closed my eyes, and when I opened them we were all crying," Badger writes of handing out the gifts to the kids at the facility. "When I looked into the girls’ faces, I saw my children. It broke me open in a way I still can't fully explain. But if these little girls were living their lives with joy and happiness, I realized — and if they could give their love to me after all they had been through — how could I possibly feel sorry for myself?"
Finally, with the help of longtime friend Bill Duke, Badger began to feel whole again. She and Duke, a real estate broker, started a relationship and he helped her find an apartment in New York.
"One day he asked me out and I said yes. Recently he asked me to marry him, and I said yes to that, too," she writes. "We're getting married next September."
Badger eventually returned to work and is planning on volunteering again this Christmas.
Her ex-husband and father of her children, Matthew Badger, runs a charity in memory of his daughters. The LilySarahGrace Fund raises money for arts in public schools.
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